DIY PVC Light Stand Project

My portable, lightweight lighting rig. By: Trevor Freeman.

PVC Light Stand They say that necessity is the mother of invention. I believe this to be true, because some of my better ideas have come about as the result of a need. In this case, the need was a way to support the two Par 38 floodlights I had recently acquired. When combined with some colored lighting gels, the two lights could be used to create a nice backdrop for my friends' band, or for studio lighting and photography. The problem was that the lights came only with a C-clamp and were not self supporting.

Working on a shoestring budget, I started to sketch some plans out on paper. I wanted something low to the ground, perhaps a foot tall. The lights could clamp easily onto a bar or a piece of wood, maybe four feet long. The original design was a triangle shaped truss, but it proved unfeasible when I could not locate the parts to build it at Home Depot. The lighting stand needed to be portable and lightweight, yet strong. It also needed to be cheap, and easily fixable or replaceable. The obvious choice for the project was PVC pipe.

One weekend in July I ventured over to Home Depot to start making this idea into a reality. A ten foot section of 1.5" diameter PVC pipe was only a couple of dollars. I also selected some T-shaped pieces and some 90-degree corner pieces. The total cost was about $11. The pipe was too large to fit in my car, so I had to cut about two inches off the end to get it home. Along the way, I stopped at Wal-Mart and got some black spraypaint and some clear coat. Two cans of gloss black and one can of clear coat at 98 cents each added another $3 to the project total.

Once I got everything home, I set to work measuring, cutting, sanding, and fitting the pieces together. Following my sketches, the whole thing took less than an hour to build. Home Depot sells a nice PVC pipe cutter, but I opted to use an old hacksaw we had laying around in order to save a few bucks. If you are thinking of building some professional looking light stands, then I do recommend the pipe cutter. I found it difficult to cut a straight line through the pipe, and in the end it did look as thought the pipe were just hacked up from a larger one.

A quick run over the pipes with some 100 grit sandpaper made things much smoother. By this point, things were looking very good. I took everything apart and began to paint them black with the spraypaint. As you can see by the pictures, I just set the pipes on an old pizza box and some newspaper. This turned out to be a bad idea because if the paint touches the newspaper while it is drying, they will stick together and look very messy when finished. I also sprayed a can of clear coat on the pipes to protect them from scratches and damage.

Well once everything was dry I put it together and tested it out. In the photos everything looks wonderful. In reality, painting the pipes made them fit much tighter and the clear coat did little to prevent them from being scratched. Just pushing the pipes together and pulling them apart wore the paint off the edges almost immediately. To keep the lights from slipping on the pipe, I wrapped the clamp area with some black electrical tape.

I am very happy with this project and the results I achieved while working on a budget. In the future I would consider redoing the whole thing with some black plastic PVC pipe and a real pipe cutter to make those edges nice and even. From design to construction to assembly, this project was fun the whole way. Thanks for reading!

-Trevor Freeman
13 July 2006


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